Letter re Domestic Abuse Bill
Firstly, congratulations on the work of all Soroptimists in the UK who lobbied for a change in the law re non-fatal strangulation in domestic abuse. It is now confirmed that there will be a clause in the new Domestic Abuse Bill to change the law – you have been successful! Dame Vera Baird helped with this amendment as she is asking again for our assistance.
The final reading of the bill is scheduled for March 8th
Between 2009 and 2018, 888 women were killed with 60% being recorded as having domestic abuse as a factor. In the same period 108 men were killed by women with domestic abuse cited in 77% of cases. The defence of provocation reduces a murder charge to manslaughter but doesn’t really work for women because they often use a weapon – e.g., run to the kitchen and grab a knife – which demonstrates intent, when really, they are not strong enough to overpower a violent threat without a weapon of some kind. To reduce the charge the force used has to be proportionate and attacking someone who has no weapon with a weapon is deemed non-proportionate in the eyes of the law.
This applies in all cases except if you are a householder defending your property/self.
We would like to include a new clause in the Domestic Abuse Bill to replicate the householder provision so that the use of this “disproportionate force” would become a defence.
It is also interesting to note that recently Anthony Williams was sentenced toa custodial sentence of 5years for the manslaughter of his wife to whom he had been married for 50yrs. The defence was provocation after the stress of being in lockdown for 5days.
A recent newspaper report stated
“He said he began strangling her after she told him to “get over it” when he expressed his concerns. He said he chased his wife downstairs and again grabbed her by her throat as she tried to unlock the front door to escape, saying he found himself “throttling her to death”. Mrs Williams was found slumped in the couple’s porch with a pair of keys in her hand. “
Also remember Sally Challen whose initial defence after years of domestic abuse was rejected, and she was convicted of murder and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment (on appeal). The charge was later reduced to manslaughter and she was released after serving 9 years and 4months.
A recently published report from the Centre for Women’s Justice called “Women Who Kill; How the State criminalises women we might otherwise be burying” makes for difficult reading, and lends weight to the urgency of the action.
We all need to direct our anger about the present situation, misogyny in the criminal justice system and the lack of understanding and application of the law of coercive control.
A letter advocating the change to the Domestic Abuse Bill is attached and I urge you all to write to your MPs and the Secretary of State for Justice now to try and convince decision makers this is a necessary amendment.
You need to write NOW. There isn’t much time.
Liz Dominey, Chair UKPAC
1 March 2021
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